Complaining is easy but actually doing something about it takes real guts. Witness Wayzata High School graduate Nate Blomquist: An avid skateboarder and snowboarder, he was fed up with the short, wide shape of the sport’s clothes that were on the market. His solution was to learn to sew, study marketing and start his own clothing company called Common Apparel. The consensus? Totally gnarly.
Blomquist started the company as a class marketing project in school. He looked up competitor prices, did online research about resources and distribution, and spread the word. Once he fulfilled his school requirement, he decided to develop the venture in real life.
The first thing Blomquist did upon graduation in 2011 was buy a silkscreen press and learn how to use with online tutorials. The next step was to buy a sewing machine. “After one-and-a-half years, I’m pretty good at it,” he says. “My mom taught me a little and I kept going with it, even though I was really bad at first.” Blomquist now sews the majority of the apparel he sells.
Marketing initiatives came next. Blomquist got a vinyl cutter and made stickers to give away. He plastered them everywhere and hyped the clothing line on Facebook. WHS classmates Jake Braseth and Billy Bottoms joined Blomquist in 2011. He and his partners hung out at the snowboard hill at Elm Creek in Maple Grove where they could influence younger kids.
“We wanted to do something now to influence our future—something bigger and something special,” Braseth says. “It’s taking off now and it feels like we're actually accomplishing something.”
Braseth focuses on art and design; Bottoms contributes to marketing efforts and drives (and supplies) the company van. The van is covered in stickers, acting as a sort of moving advertisement. The partners drive all over the country to meet like-minded people and educate others about their brand. “We just do what we love and having a clothing line allows us to wear what we want. We get the name out by riding around, snowboarding and filming with our friends.” says Blomquist.
Braseth agrees. “Whenever we work we're basically just hanging out, which makes working awesome. I kind of look at it like an internship where I don't even have to leave my house, and now I have this big portfolio of pretty awesome things I've designed. It’s been incredibly fun the entire time.”
Near the beginning, top snowboarder Jesse Paul joined the team, and he promotes the brand by wearing Common Apparel in competitions and videos. He also contributes photography, web design and public relations. “Common Apparel is a really cool collaboration between all of us,” Paul says, “but Nate does most of the stuff himself. It's amazing to see how committed he is and what he has done with the brand. He's got the business mind of a 30-year-old and he takes every opportunity given to him.”
Blomquist now just graduated from Lake Superior College in Duluth with a degree in associative arts and is spreading his entrepreneurial wings. He dreams of opening a warehouse-slash-skate park one day, but for now the goal is to get the merchandise into local board shops. So keep your peepers peeled for some Common Apparel near you. It’s awesome.
NATE’S TOP FIVE PRODUCT PICKS
Mystery Hoody, $65
-Hand screen printed
-Hand sewn tag and add-ons
-Comfortable and lightweight material
-One of a kind; each one customized
Moonshine Hoody, $55
-80 percent cotton/20 percent polyester blend fleece
-White hand screen printed design by Jake Braseth
-Sewn Common Apparel tag
Scrap Beanie, $15
-Made and decorated in the U.S.
-Great fall or winter beanie
Henley 2-button-down Style, $22
-Breathable and lightweight
-Locally bought fabric
-Custom Common Apparel tag on pocket
-Taller, slim baseball-tee fit
Women’s Reverse Hoody, $45
-Tall, slim fit
-Common Apparel canvas patch sewn on back
-Art by Jake Braseth